There is plenty of comment on the news that the government plans to expand the Mandatory Work Activity scheme. If you haven't read any of it, try the Guardian. Essentially, the plan was was for 10,000 starts in the first year, but more than 49,000 have been referred in the first 10 months. Only 16,790 have actually started MWA. And 46% either signed off or didn't turn up. (I don't know how they work that out - I make that 34% no-show.) It's such a success that they are going to spend £5m on increasing the numbers by 9,000. And the penalty for failing to comply could be loss of benefits for 3 years.
For the right wing press, of course, this means that nearly half of long-term unemployed people are in some way fraudulent. But does it? Certainly there are some who are working in the black economy, cash in hand, and will sign off. Some others are claiming whilst being kept by someone else, and would rather sign off than go on the scheme. But nobody knows how many there are in these categories. Some have been trying to play the system by signing off for a week or two then signing on again, assuming that the clock is wound back to the start - but it isn't. Others will simply have decided that they don't wish to comply with MWA. But what they will then live on, who knows? There is no evidence of increased numbers getting jobs because of MWA.
MWA was the contract which A4e lost in one region, you remember, because their processes were too "risky". But another £5m is to be put into the scheme. Presumably if enough people sign off, that's a bargain. But one question which is never addressed is, where is all this "work activity" coming from? Which employers are benefiting from this? There are now nearly 17,000 people out there working for up to 30 hours a week, doing what?